Birzeit University calls for solidarity after undercover Israeli Occupation units abduct student in daylight raid

During classroom hours on March 7, 2018, an undercover Israeli army unit infiltrated Birzeit University’s main campus and arrested Omar Kiswani, a 24-year-old political science student and head of the university’s Student Council. Special forces disguised as students entered the campus in the afternoon before accosting Kiswani and firing their weapons, thus terrifying and endangering the university’s students and staff. Two students and one staff member were injured.

Regular Israeli soldiers backed the special unit by detaining the unarmed university guards stationed at the campus gate and providing armed cover, also firing their weapons at random.

The raid was the first ever on such a brazen scale. Israeli occupation military troops attacked the university’s grounds during operating hours, causing injuries, and kidnapped a student in broad daylight. It is only the latest, however, in a series of night raids of the university campus, and off-campus arrests targeting students and staff.

Since 2004, the university has been raided 11 times, four of the break-ins occurring in the past two years. Around 800 of the university’s students have been arrested at one time, among them 16 female students. Currently over 60 students are detained in Israeli prisons, many under administrative detention with no charges.

All of these activities impede the Palestinian right to education, however, armed military activities inside an educational institution are a notable breach of international norms. In August 2014, UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon called the shelling nearby a UN school in Gaza a "gross violation of international humanitarian law."

The university administration issued the following statement, “These regular attacks by the Israeli army are part of systematic oppressive measures aimed at undermining the foundation of our education system, violating basic human rights, terrorizing our youth into submission and challenging the very democratic values and practices which we have proudly upheld since our establishment as an institution of learning in 1924.”

The administration went on to call for solidarity with the university and to oppose “injustice, repression and violence.”

“We urge you to demand immediate action from your parliamentary representatives, university communities, professional and academic associations, student associations, human rights organizations, and United Nations agencies,” the administration continued.

“This is the time to strengthen our global movement in demand for an end to the Israeli occupation and its repressive measures against the Palestinians and assert their right to independence and liberation.”

Birzeit University is located in Birzeit in the occupied West Bank and enrolls nearly 14,000 undergraduate and graduate students.